The Four Harmonious Friends
In a certain forest there dwelt a bird, a rabbit, a monkey, and an elephant. They were very good friends and they lived together happily upon the fruits of a tree.
The bird was acknowledged as the leader by his three friends, after each of them had stated his age. Despite his big body and height, the elephant was found to be the youngest among them (he had once known the tree to be as high as he was tall but the monkey claimed that he had seen the tree to be only as high as himself was. The rabbit said that he had once lapped the dew from the leaves of the tree when it was but a small plant. The bird stated that he had left his droppings over the seed so that it had nourishment for its growth). The bird, therefore, was known to be the oldest of them, and once they had come to regard him as such, the bird gave them some excellent advice. He told them:
Not to take life;
Not to steal;
Not to indulge in carnal pleasure;
Not to tell a lie; and
Not to drink any intoxicant.
When they gave heed to the precepts given them by the bird, not only the animals became happy, but the inhabitants of the villages near the forest were happy too. Then the wise men in the villages knew that it was because of what the animals in the forest had done that there was prosperity in the villages. When the word reached the king of the land he was greatly pleased and he wanted to go to the forest and see the bird and animals for himself. But the wise men told him that he won’t be able to find them but if the men followed the examples set by the animals, these would be given greater prosperity and happiness among men.
In a future life all the four friends were born together as men – the bird became none other than Lord Buddha and the three animals the monks closest to him. The rabbit became Sariphu, the monkey Mangugaliphu and the elephant Kungau.